A ball-and-stick model of piracetam, one of the nootropic drugs that are said to improve memory and learning function in healthy people. (GETTY IMAGES)

For years, Pierre Jamet was convinced that he couldn’t do his job without a hit of Adderall. These days, he relies on bovine adrenal glands and a nootropic drug called piracetam.

“The start-up world is super-demanding,” says Jamet, 38, vice president of sales for an information security start-up in Silicon Valley. “It requires you to wear a lot of hats, do things on the fly and stay focused.”

He was first diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder after graduating from college. Suddenly, out in the real world, he discovered that he was “terrible at finishing things. I got sidetracked like crazy, not only from a task performance but also in conversations.”

He was prescribed Adderall, a common medication for people with ADHD, which conferred a razor-sharp focus but left him jittery, irritable and ultimately addicted.

A year ago, he began seeing Vinh Ngo, a San Francisco doctor who weaned him off Adderall and suggested that he use hormones and a “smart drug” called piracetam that has been embraced by the Silicon Valley tech world and others for its promise of greater focus and productivity.

Despite its popularity, piracetam has shown mixed results as a brain enhancer. In 1976, a still-much-ballyhooed study reported that a daily dose improved the verbal memory of healthy college students after just two weeks. Twenty-five years later, a study discredited that finding, concluding there was no evidence to prove the drug’s effectiveness.

That hasn’t swayed Jamet, who says he feels better than ever. Piracetam, he says, “doesn’t give me that crazy focus like an Adderall rush. But that’s probably a good thing. [And] the bovine stuff is a good substitute on the energy side. There’s no euphoric feeling or anything like that, but it gives me energy and it’s consistent — not like drinking a Red Bull, where you crash.”

Jamet has become a strong believer in smart drugs — so much so that when a friend recently celebrated her 29th birthday, he knew the very gift to give her: a bottle of piracetam.

— Sara Solovitch